Thursday, April 1, 2021

What background disqualifies a reporter from a story?

"Felicia Sonmez had to flee her home. In early 2020, after the death of the basketball player Kobe Bryant, Sonmez, a longtime breaking news reporter at the Washington Post, tweeted a link to a Daily Beast story about the 2003 rape allegation against Bryant. The tweet had no commentary and no editorializing by Sonmez, and yet on the day it appeared online, it was a lonely acknowledgment of Bryant’s compromised legacy amid a sea of uncritical praise for the dead athlete. In response, the reporter received a deluge of abuse from Bryant’s fans. They were angry at what they saw as Sonmez besmirching Bryant’s memory by acknowledging the accusation that he had been sexually violent towards a Colorado woman; they were willing to avenge this disrespect, or so they claimed, with more violence against women. The name-calling escalated into threats, and some of those threats seemed credible. Her home address was published online. For her own safety, Sonmez went briefly into hiding.

The story is sadly familiar to female journalists, who face harassment, threats, stalking, and other digital hostility as a strange and uncompensated condition of their jobs. But in many cases, these female journalists are defended by their employers. Such was the case for Taylor Lorenz, a New York Times reporter on digital culture who was targeted by Tucker Carlson and other rightwing instigators last month: the Times issued a statement standing by their reporter, and condemning the attacks against her."

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